AVON, September 28 – In August, Avon High Gabriel DeJesus was listed as a split end on the Falcon roster. It seemed like a good spot for a 5-foot-9, 165-pound senior, a player that head coach Jeff Redman calls the fastest player on the team.
However, DeJesus had a tough time hanging onto the ball. “We went up to him and said, ‘Gabe if you want to play, we need you at guard’,” Redman said. And he is the starting nose guard. A week ago against Tolland, he didn’t miss a single play – on offense, defense or special teams.
On Friday night, DeJesus missed an occasional special teams play but he was out there for virtually the entire game as Avon played their first home game of the season under portable lights and in front of several hundred fans that filled three of the four sections of bleachers.
But visiting Northwest Catholic was too strong as quarterback Connor Rich threw three touchdown passes and ran for a fourth to lead the Lions to their first win of the season, 33-0, and the first career victory for their rookie head coach Michael Lenz.
DeJesus had a sack for a 10-yard loss and was credited with his first run of the season when he recovered a loose ball in the fourth quarter for a three-yard gain.
“He made a lot of special teams tackles,” Redman said. “He’s aggressive. So we put him at guard and he’s done a nice job. He is at nose tackle and he made a lot of nice plays tonight.”
Remember, he is just 165 pounds.
A year ago, he might have been on the field for a play or two. Now, he rarely comes off it.
“I knew I would play some more but I didn’t expect this much time,” DeJesus said.
In retrospect, it would have been a waste to put DeJesus at split end. Avon’s passing game has struggled in the first four games of the year. The Falcons are much more comfortable running the ball.
Now as a guard, DeJesus is involved in every play. He would have some blocking assignments at split end but now, he right in the middle of the action.
“He loves it,” Redman said. And it helps the Falcons, who have a limited number of upperclassmen available to play at the varsity level. Most of the players on the varsity are playing on both sides of the ball. But few see as many snaps as DeJesus.
Unfortunately for the Falcons, Avon struggled to move the ball Friday night. The Lions limited Avon to just 70 yards on offense – 65 on the ground and five yards in the air.
“Defensively, we played OK if you take away those broken coverages,” Redman said. “Offensively, we didn’t move anybody (on Northwest Catholic’s defensive line). We couldn’t move anybody. There isn’t much you can do then.”
Avon was in Northwest Catholic for just one play in the first half and coughed up the ball on their next play. The Falcons did penetrate into Northwest Catholic’s territory just once in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter getting as close as the 30-yard line.
“We were able to execute and play well on both sides of the ball,” Lenz said. “We seemed to put things together. The guys played real physical Northwest football.”
Two big passing plays gave Northwest Catholic (1-3) a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Paris Carpenter caught a pair of touchdown passes from QB Connor Rich (5-6, 121 yards, 3 TDs) to give the Lions the early advantage.
Rich found a wide open Carpenter for a 34-yard touchdown pass with 6:48 remaining in the first quarter. With 30 seconds left in the quarter, Rich found Carpenter wide open for a second time for a 50-yard touchdown pass.
Northwest took a 21-0 lead with 6:10 remaining in the second quarter on a 8-yard pass from Rich to Dean Edwards to close out an eight-play, 75-yard drive.
Issac Riley led the Lions on the ground, running for 105 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Carpenter caught a pair of passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns.
Dan Quick led Avon (0-4) with 58 yards rushing on 18 carries. Vito Catalano recovered a fumble in the first quarter for Avon while the Falcons had three sacks from Henry Schrecengost (1-2), Francisco Longon (1-7) and DeJesus (1-10). Jadon Folkwein and Quandrell Stewart each had tackles for losses.
“We did a lot of good things tonight but we’re not better than Northwest,” Redman said. “There aren’t a lot of teams that we’re better than. But we’ll get some wins this year. We just have to keep working harder and be better at what we do.”
The next two games will be a challenge for the Falcons. Avon will host undefeated Berlin (4-0) next Saturday at 2 p.m. Berlin has been receiving votes in the New Haven Register’s top 10 football poll all season. And on Saturday, October 20, the Falcons will host Bloomfield, who was ranked in the top 10 for one week this season and is currently No. 11.
NOTES: With the victory, the Lions took a 12-11 lead in the series that began in 1982. The shutout was the third highest margin of victory for the Lions in the series behind a 49-point win in 2005 by NW Catholic and a 40-point win in 2004. … Both teams play in the CCC’s Division III but Avon is the CCC Division III East while the Lions are in the CCC Division III West in football. … Northwest Catholic has won four of the most recent five football games with Avon.
Northwest Catholic 33, Avon 0
NW Catholic (1-3) 14 7 6 6 — 33
Avon (0-4) 0 0 0 0 — 0
NWC: Paris Carpenter 34 pass from Connor Rich (Mateo Moran kick), 6:48
NWC: Carpenter 50 pass from Rich (Moran kick), 0:30
NWC: Dean Edwards 8 pass from Rich (Morgan kick), 6:10
NWC: Issac Riley 8 run (pass fails), 5:04
NWC: Rich 10 run (pass fails), 7:50
RUSHING: NW Catholic – Connor Rich 14-46, Issac Riley 12-105, Dean Edwards 1-10, Paris Carpenter 3-minus 16; Valentino West 2-10; Avon – Vito Catalano 2-minus 1, Dan Quick 18-58, Tim Del Gallo 2-4, Gabriel DeJesus 1-3, Jadon Folkwein 13-9, Quandrell Stewart 2-minus 8
PASSING: NW Catholic – Connor Rich 5-6-0, 121; Edwards 0-1-0; Avon – Tim Del Gallo 1-2-0, 5; Jadon Folkwein 0-1-1
RECEIVING: NW Catholic – Joshua Sidoti 1-12, Paris Carpenter 2-84, Dean Edwards 2-25; Avon – Francisco Longo 1-5
FUMBLE RECOVERY: Skye Dolce (NWC), Vito Catalano (A); INTERCEPTION: Nicholas DeFranzo (NWC)
RETURNS: Carpenter (NW) 1-17 (kickoffs), 3-40 (punts), Vito Catalano (A) 2-10 (kickoffs), Quandrell Stewart (A) 1-16 (kickoff), Jadon Folkwein (A) 1-2 (kickoff); SACKS: Henry Schrecengost (A) 1-2, Francisco Longo (A) 1-7, Gabriel DeJesus (A) 1-10